By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Evelyn Bryan Johnson, who logged 57,635.4 hours in the air -- more than six years -- during her long flying career, died last week at age 102. Johnson, known as "Mama Bird," taught more than 5,000 students and gave more than 9,000 check rides for the FAA. She ran a small airport in Morristown, Tenn., until she was past 100. "Mrs. Johnson said she would retire when she was old enough, which she never was," reads her New York Times obituary. "Each time she went up in a plane -- her last flight was as a passenger in 2009 -- she said she saw something new and beautiful."
"Evelyn was a shining star whose zeal touched countless pilots," former student Peggy Chabrian, president of Women in Aviation International, said this week. "She was one of those lucky people who found their passion early so she could live her life doing exactly what she wanted to do ... A down-to-earth woman with a great sense of humor, Evelyn was definitely one of a kind, whose legacy lives on in her thousands of students." Among many awards, Johnson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame. She held the Guinness world record for more hours in the air than any other woman. AVweb contributor Joe Godfrey spoke with Johnson in 1999 as she approached her 90th birthday; click here for that interview.